The last Cincinnati Bengals coach to win a playoff game was then quickly replaced for not allowing women reporters to go in a locker room of naked men. Two decades later, I told that coach he should run for governor of South Carolina, and I believed he was right to offer to bring players out to female reporters while still encouraging modesty and remembering many of those players had wives at home – but USA Today and the Bengals did not agree.
Obviously, you need to ensure that women have access to any interview they need, but surely that can be accomplished without losing sensitivity about privacy that has now been so common in TSA lines and elsewhere.
In 1988, Sam Wyche stood up to the NFL to revolutionize the game with the first all-out no huddle offense to get the Bengals to the Superbowl. When the NFL told him he could not run the no huddle in the playoffs, he told them to let the TV network know they would be throwing a flag after every Bengals offensive play. His offense, led by Boomer Esiason, ran the no huddle all the way to the Superbowl that year.
In 1990, the Bengals lost an October game to the Seattle Seahawks and Wyche told USA Today reporter Denice Tom he was not allowing females in the locker room that included many married men. While I believe South Carolina GOP primary voters would have supported Wyche for governor years later, he was not going to win a PR war with USA Today on the value of modesty and the protection of marriage. He was lambasted for not allowing equal access and fined $30,000 by the NFL. The Bengals let him finish out the season, including the last playoff win in Bengals history in a 41-14 win over the Houston Oilers.
In 1991, the Bengals started the post-Wyche era with their first of three 3-13 seasons in four years, and they have still not won a playoff game since.
Last year the post-Wyche/no-playoff win streak reached 21 years despite going up against the Houston Texans third-string quarterback. Today, the Bengals get a second consecutive chance to go into Houston to end the streak, playing against a Texans team that has looked very beatable the last month of the season and may be vulnerable because the team was on its way to securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Three weeks ago, it was improbable Houston would be playing in a first-round playoff game.
If Michael Vick had not been convicted for his dog fighting activities, his Atlanta Falcons backup may never have left Atlanta for Houston.
Matt Schaub has thrown often to the best target on the planet – Andre Johnson (112 receptions for 1598 yards), so the Bengals need to rush Schaub to continue to get sacks like they did all year (3rd most sacks in the league at 51). Arian Foster, who is returning from an irregular heartbeat (league best 15 touchdowns on 1424 yards), will need to keep the pass rush honest to Schaub has time to find Johnson.
On the other side of the top matchup, Andy Dalton has to try to forget his awful outing last year in Houston when JJ Watt turned the first of his three interceptions into a touchdown return and the Bengals never got back in the game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis looks to be back at 100% for the game (6 TDs for 1094 yards). Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league and Dalton’s go-to target.
Cincinnati is the 2nd hottest team playing this weekend, with a Sagarin rating in the 2nd half behind only Seattle. It is only 2 points better than the Texans, so a 3-point home field advantage would seem to give the Texans a 1-point edge.
However, if you break out just the Texans’ last four games of the season they are a much colder team than Cincinnati. In addition, Cincinnati has been even better on the road than at home, with a 6-2 mark that matches the Texans 6-2 home mark.
After looking like a potential Superbowl winner for much of the season, the Texans may just need one playoff game to get back to midseason form, but I suspect the Bengals may finally be ready to pull one out.
Prediction: Cincinnati 20, Houston 19